This week the top 100 prospects in hockey countdown looks at number 60 – 56.
60. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Height/Weight: 6’0” / 187
Drafted: 16th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by New York Islanders
Barzal has been returned to the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds and, as expected, is having a banner year. Barzal has easily, and significantly eclipsed his point totals from his draft year and was a key member of the Canadian World Junior Championship roster in Finland. It has been an important year of development for Barzal, gaining some size, strength and confidence. He may not be ready to join the Islanders in the NHL next year and is not eligible for the AHL, meaning he likely will return for another year of junior hockey.
A smart, creative player with a wide, strong, fluid stride…plays a 200-foot game…makes good decisions with the puck…has decent strength, and looks bigger than listed…shows flashes of dominating offensive skills, but need to do so with more consistency…not overly physical, but will engage in contact for the puck…shows his creativity, vision and playmaking ability on the power play…finds seams and open ice with his impressive senses…really doing well in his rookie WHL season…has high-end offensive NHL upside. – Future Considerations
59. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Height/Weight: 6’4” / 207
Drafted: 130th overall in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by Winnipeg
After a breakout performance with team USA at the World Cup in 2015, Hellebuyck started this season in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose. His stellar play there, and some injuries in the Jets crease, allowed Hellebuyck to see some time in the NHL and he did not disappoint. The Jets have a lot of options in goal between Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, and Eric Comrie making noise in the AHL, but Pavelec and Hutchinson have been inconsistent and Hellebuyck is poised to assume a larger role.
Hellebuyck is huge in the net, but is not saddled with many of the issues that are commonly associated with large goaltenders. He is a strong skater, and takes advantage of that by being smart about his butterfly usage. He does not sit back and rely on his size do the work. His lateral pushes are explosive, but he stays within himself due to an understanding of the type of positioning that works best for a goalie of his size. It’s very rare to see Hellebuyck scramble out of position, which is a sign of a goaltender that knows his limits and is in complete control. The buzz around the AHL at the beginning of last season was “Who is this guy?” but that quickly turned into “How the heck do you beat this guy?” He’s only a household name in the AHL right now, but the NHL shouldn’t be too far behind. – In Goal Magazine
58. Nic Petan, Winnipeg Jets
Position: Left Wing
Height/Weight: 5’9” / 179
Drafted: 43rd overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Winnipeg
After a stellar career in the WHL, Petan began the year with the Jets in the NHL and recorded his first career goal. Unfortunately it is his only point in 14 games in the show this season, and as a result it’s clear he needs more time in the AHL. With the Moose, his numbers are improved, with 29 points in 39 games. Perhaps his slow start to the season was being overwhelmed and not ready for the NHL, perhaps he was miscast in a limited role on the fourth line. Whatever the reason, he has excelled since joining the Moose in the AHL and is looking every bit the part of the top prospect with the high offensive upside.
Clever, highly-skilled playmaker with high-end vision and imagination .. plays a bold and gutsy style given his diminutive stature – his courage level helping offset the obvious size deficiency .. gifted puckhandler – equipped with a keen sense for pressure .. adept at drawing checkers in and creating space for others .. springy, sneaky-quick skater on a wide base – driven by flexible legs that are long relative to body size .. comfortable operating with legs spread wide – which brings his hands and stick closer to the ice, thereby enhancing control .. exhibits great presence of mind in possession – head up – deploying brief bursts of activity followed by pauses where he slows the game down and assesses options .. squirmy 1-on-1 – makes nifty little shifts and lateral cuts, and will hold the puck an extra second to get outside defenders and free up a shooting lane .. can cut at sharp angles with the puck and unload a quick, accurate wristshot at full speed .. responsible and diligent defensively – competes hard in his zone, but still labours to contain bigger opponents down low . – McKeens Hockey
57. Jimmy Vesey, Nashville Predators
Position: Left Wing
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 194
Drafted: 66th overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by Nashville
Vesey had a monster junior season culminated with a Hobey Baker Award nomination and a NCAA Championship. His personal awards and achievement list is lengthy, and in his senior and final year of college hockey he remains unsigned. At the conclusion of his academic career he will need to either sign with the Predators, or he will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Should he become a free agent, he could be the most highly sought college free agent in history. Vesey should step onto a NHL roster in a top six role to begin next season.
Scouting Report: skilled, rangy winger .. strong, proactive shooter – packs a heavy wrist shot – good release power and quickness .. not a dynamic north-south skater – and hitches in his crossovers .. turning ability is a prime attribute though .. fluid and economical on edges – allowing him to cut with the puck .. creates chances by surprising with quick pivots and cuts .. proficient at getting into proper shooting lanes and body positions .. scores goals by arriving in prime spots at the right time. – McKeens Hockey
56. Mike McCarron, Montreal Canadiens
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 238
Drafted: 25th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Montreal
McCarron has been rising up the depth chart like a rocket, starting with winning a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals in his final year of junior hockey. In his rookie pro season, McCarron started the year in the AHL and has impressed with 15 goals and 34 points in 54 games, also adding 82 penalty minutes. As a reward, McCarron has made his NHL debut and has played his first two games. Montreal is in need of size and skill up the middle and McCarron may be the answer. He is big, nasty, can skate, has decent hands and can win draws. McCarron has a long and promising career ahead of him.
good, smooth skater for his size – moves well laterally .. a north-south threat as he attains very good top speed .. not overly quick off the mark though – needs to add quickness to startup .. decent puckhandler aided by a huge reach .. steadily improving physical consistency – learning to exploit his size .. must keep getting stronger and bulking up a mammoth frame .. a future third-line power pivot. – McKeens Hockey